Happy Independence Day!

Take 10 minutes to listen to a reading of the Declaration of Independence, from the Monticello website, read by Thomas Jefferson Williamsburg re-enactor Bill Barker.

founding.com has an annotated version of the Declaration of Independence, with links to explanations of the the specific historical context behind the text.

As today's 239th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approached, I observed some ambivalence about the usual celebrations among conservative writers. In the last month, we have seen the rule of law turned on its head, with the judicial branch rewriting Obamacare to save it and inventing a new right while discarding precedent after precedent the legal basis upon which substantive due process claims were considered in the past. Like the Red Queen of Wonderland, the Court majority screamed "Sentence first, verdict after!" Having determined the desired outcome, they invented a tortured legal path to their destination. The ability of the people to decide their own laws was swept away. The people seem to have no recourse, no defense against this supra-legislature, this Washington oligarchy which not only fails to defend their rights but attacks them.

We may take a bit of comfort in the fact that this victory was achieved by deceiving the American people: Had the President been honest about his desire to redefine marriage, he would not have been nominated in 2008, much less elected, and would not have been in a position to advance to the Supreme Court lawyers who lied, under oath, about their opinions on the topic.

But there was deception on the other side, too. Americans kept electing Republicans who talked big about defending our liberties and reforming our runaway Federal government, but time and again they have demonstrated what might be generously called a lack of courage but what we fear is really intentional betrayal.

From Thomas Sowell:

When any branch of government can exercise powers not authorized by either statutes or the Constitution, "we the people" are no longer free citizens but subjects, and our "public servants" are really our public masters. And America is no longer America. The freedom for which whole generations of Americans have fought and died is gradually but increasingly being taken away from us with smooth and slippery words.

From law professor John Yoo:

Obergefell short-circuits the political process. Instead of campaigning to persuade majorities in each of the 50 states, as it had done in some states, gay-marriage advocates only had to convince five justices to impose a single rule on the nation. While many may welcome Obergefell's result, its method takes a fundamental question away from the realm of democratic self-government and transfers it into the hands of five men and women who never stand for election and hold their jobs for life....

But instead of allowing the political process to run its normal course, the Supreme Court decided to rewrite Obamacare. On behalf of a six-justice majority, Roberts concluded that Congress could not possibly have intended such a draconian limit on tax credits. It must have meant to give the subsidy to everyone, because that would have made for a more effective overhaul of the health-care system. In other words, the court ignored the plain text of the law passed by Congress to write a better one. The justices may have better legal talents than the average legislator, but our Constitution does not give them the responsibility to make the compromises and judgments reserved to the legislative process.

Sadly, Roberts penned the central dissent in Obergefell on the ground that the majority was rewriting the Constitution. "Under the Constitution," he wrote, "judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be." But if he wonders where his colleagues got the idea to assume the power of a supra-legislature, he need only look at his own opinion in King v. Burwell. This fault, however, is not his own, or in our stars, but is common to a court that is slowly, but surely, taking away the right of our democracy to govern itself.

Even at the local level we see elected officials, the Fairfax County, Va., school board, in this case, acting like an oligarchy, insisting upon using the public schools to indoctrinate children in the mores of the Sexual Revolution, over the protests of the public that put them into office.

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Should we celebrate this 4th of July?

Luma Simms, who immigrated from Iraq as a child, says she's celebrating the 4th differently this year:

After the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges decision, I've been ruminating over my naturalized home and wondering if there's a way to give my children a better life, the way my parents assumed that coming to America would give me a better life. The morality of Obergefell is one issue. But beneath all that, what has deeply concerned me is the stark lawlessness of it all....

The fourth of July celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It was never just an excuse for a backyard barbecue for me. It was a day I observed with deep gratitude and a certain amount of solemnity. It was a celebration of what our predecessors in this land had done, the course they had set us on and the paths they had opened for us.

The Declaration of Independence says some truths are self-evident. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court say that we make up our own truths....

The Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court overlook the real and true rights human beings possess and say that man gives man rights--worse, that they as the high court of this country are the ones which posit what is a right and what is not, as their reality changes faster than any written law they might be called upon to interpret....

The Declaration of Independence says that among the rights our Creator God gives us are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Five justices of the Supreme Court of these United States have said and continue to say that life is not a universal right. That women can end the life of a child in their wombs. They have upheld and continue to hold to decisions that undermine the life of the weak, the poor, and the outcast. They say: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life," yet they deny those being killed the right to even suggest they might have a concept of existence that includes themselves. In short, these five reduce the "pursuit of Happiness" to access to sex without boundaries.

The Declaration of Independence says government derives just power from the consent of the governed. Five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have trod upon the people's voice and have usurped power for themselves.

So, as I read the Declaration this year, I boldly affirm its words. There has indeed been "a long train of abuses and usurpations" by this court. They have undermined and invalidated the legal and ethical foundations our Founders went to war to win for us, their posterity. And this makes my celebration this year more a focus on the inspired spirit of man that would stand and recite to the world not only the litany of injustices that its "leaders" exercise upon the people daily, but the logical conclusion of these injustices: that the people could suffer them no longer.

The blogger called "Weirddave," who has been writing a series on fundamental concepts at Ace of Spades HQ, acknowledges the problem:

There is really no argument about it, the fundamental principles upon which this nation was formed have been eroded or eclipsed to the point where the greatest Democratic Republic in history, a model for the world and a beacon for freedom, is now nothing more than another damned dirty Oligarchy, impoverished peons subservient to a greedy ruling class. In short, we've reverted to the norm. American exceptionalism is dead because America isn't exceptional anymore, we're just like all the rest of the countries in the world, just like all the rest of the countries throughout history. We are no longer sovereign citizens, we're are subjects of a ruling elite.

...The Fourth of July holiday celebrates the Declaration of Independence, the document where America declared it's freedom and boldly stated it's grievances against an out of touch ruling elite. We'll have fireworks, fellowship, celebration, and community. Flags will be raised, rockets shot, anthems sung and BBQ eaten. It's all one great big orgy of Americana, and although most people aren't even aware of it, they are celebrating a dead letter, an antiquated concept, an ideal that has been killed by an unelected cadre of black robed tyrants, cowardly legislators more interested in power than oaths and an executive drunk on the power to destroy everything that he is honor bound to safeguard. It's Independence Day! Time to celebrate our independence from the values that made us great! Who cares? It sure feels good, don't it?

You don't buy the idea that America is ruled by an oligarchy alienated from its people? How else would you describe a situation where five robed judges dismiss the opinion of the majority of the public, an opinion shared by nearly every age and society, as grounded in irrational animus, and use that contempt as a basis for invalidating laws passed by Congress and a majority of the states.

The writer calls on Americans to remember their birthright, as set out in the Declaration of Independence, and he urges his readers to Read the Whole Thing. After reprinting the text of the Declaration, he continues:

That document was written 239 years ago by an assembly of the brightest human minds ever joined for one purpose in the history of mankind. Those men accepted the challenge presented by an uncontrolled aristocracy seeking to rule over all people, as had been the case throughout history, and calmly and clearly destroyed the idea of an oligarchy. What a brilliant victory for mankind, for liberty, for freedom for self expression.

Unfortunately you and I are living in the era of Revolution 2: The Oligarchy Strikes Back. Make no mistake, the oligarchy has struck back, hard. Most of the freedoms guaranteed to We The People by the follow up document to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, have been abandoned or overturned.... A small cadre of elites, both elected and unelected, has managed to almost completely gut the rights that we are born with. They have succeeded because we have been too busy to notice, or too lazy, or too afraid. The majority of us, Nock's "Mass Man" (what we call LIVs today), have been complicit in their own enslavement. All of this has already come to pass. It is done. Over. Finished.

He urges us to reread the catalog of tyrannies, the facts the Founders "submitted to a candid world" and to note how many apply to us today.Then he challenges us with the memory of the Founders and those who followed in the defense of liberty:

We stand metaphorically on a dusty battlefield of American history. Around us lie the tattered remains of various flags that other Americans have held high as they did their bit to establish or preserve the birthright; Gadsden. Goliad. Gonzalez. Culpeper. 1st Naval Jack. Appeal to Heaven. Behind us the dark eyes of those who came before us watch, in each eye a silent question burns: "What are you made of?". The time has come. We must answer that question with our Lives, our Fortune and our sacred Honor.

A reader asked columnist Matt Walsh to write something upbeat for Independence Day, something to remind everyone that America is still great. Walsh demurred:

I could write patronizing, pandering nonsense telling you everything is fine, this country is awesome, and the future will be bright and filled with lollipops and puppy dog farts. But what good would it do, besides win me some PR points? If you want hope, it needs to be planted firmly in truth, or else it's like administering morphine while you die of kidney failure. It'll make you feel better for a time, but it won't save you....

Walsh cites a long list of indicators of cultural decline and argues against any claim to national greatness based on the past or any hope for future greatness based on a vain belief in national destiny:

But it's a matter of historical record that America was a great country, and an exceptional one. And it's also a fact that the historical record is just that -- history. We have to stop resting on the laurels of our great-grandparents and pretending that somehow, because they came off the boat from wherever and persevered through the Depression, we get to mooch off their greatness for eternity. Frankly, our great-grandparents would be disgusted at our country now, and ashamed of it, and of us. Their greatness was their own. We don't deserve it and have not earned it....

Yesterday someone on Twitter told me that America will "always" be great, no matter what happens or what we do. Others have insisted it's divine destiny that America reclaim its greatness. But this kind of talk isn't patriotic; it's paganism. It paints this country like it's literally the Kingdom of God. As if, out of all the thousands of countries that have existed since the dawn of time, ours is the first that really will last forever. This is to make Americanism into a religion. It's idolatry. It's foolishness, especially considering the Romans and the Greeks felt exactly the same way yet even they were evidently wrong.

We have no guarantees, nor should we seek them. The Lord, in His wisdom, might see fit to smite America from the Earth, like Sodom and Gomorrah. Can't say I'd blame Him. Or maybe He will lead us through this dark age to true greatness. I don't know.

(Looking at the history of the 20th century, it's as if we suddenly decided, sometime after World War II, that civilization was nice and all, but it's hard work, so let's chuck it.)

We ought to celebrate Independence Day for the sake of honoring and being stirred to action by the memory of those who put everything at risk for the sake of liberty, while humbly and soberly acknowledging that we have fallen far short of preserving their legacy.

We ought to celebrate Independence Day, because the Declaration of Independence represents ideals worth celebrating, ideals that are opposed by the architects of our national decline.

A writer at Vox posted yesterday that we should regard American independence as a tragic mistake. The post was riddled with historical inaccuracies, but the gist of it was that this whole checks-and-balances thing gets in the way of Progress like restrictions on fossil fuels.

Yesterday, a friend who works in Christian campus ministry posted an approving link to a Native American activist who blogged about how he made a stink about a chain restaurant's display of the Declaration of Independence. He made a stink because the Declaration includes the words "Merciless Indian Savages," which he claims means that the "foundations of the United States of America are blatantly unjust."

When our server, who was also Native, came to the table, I asked if I could show him something. I stood up and pointed out that 30 lines below the famous quote "All men are created equal," the Declaration of Independence refers to Natives as "merciless Indian savages."

The irony was that the restaurant was filled with Native American customers and employees. And there in plain sight, a poster hanging on the wall was literally calling all of us "savages."

That's literally untrue, and it's telling that he chooses not to quote the entire sentence containing that phrase:

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

It is the last item in the Declaration's list of grievances against King George III, and from "has endeavoured" to the end of the sentence, the words are straight out of Thomas Jefferson's "rough draught."

George III had, through his agents in America, stirred up rebellions among slaves and attacks against the colonists by certain Indian tribes. This was not out of any British love for slaves or Indians; these groups were convenient proxies to harass the colonists. This statement is an indictment aimed at George III, not Indians. (Ignore the commas, which were not applied in 1776 with the same rules used today.) The phrase "merciless Indian savages" is qualified by the restrictive clause "whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."

This sentence tells us what the Continental Congress thought of the particular Indian nations who were incited by the British against the settlers; it says nothing about what the Congress thought of other Indian groups or about Indians generally. The same American founder who wrote the phrase in question wrote the following in his first State of the Union:

Among our Indian neighbors also a spirit of peace and friendship generally prevails, and I am happy to inform you that the continued efforts to introduce among them the implements and the practice of husbandry and of the household arts have not been without success; that they are becoming more and more sensible of the superiority of this dependence for clothing and subsistence over the precarious resources of hunting and fishing, and already we are able to announce that instead of that constant diminution of their numbers produced by their wars and their wants, some of them begin to experience an increase of population.

Those are not the words of a bigot or a racist.

And yet the activist in question stretches a specific phrase referring to specific people who had attacked innocent settlers so that he can conclude that the "Declaration of Independence is a systemically racist document" along with the rest of our founding documents, and therefore of course the whole system must be overthrown.

The institutions of this nation may be systemically racist, but I do not believe a majority of the citizens are. However, in a nation that is systemically racist, anti-racism is less about personal racist attitudes and more about a willingness to change the system.

(He also misreads the apportionment clause of the Constitution to bolster his case. But Indians weren't counted toward apportionment not because they weren't seen as human, as he claims, but because they were citizens of other sovereign nations and therefore not taxed. And he claims that American settlers, including the Protestant dissenters who settled Plymouth Colony, were really carrying out a 15th century papal bull to subjugate the pagans.)

It is sad that a manipulative misreader of American history with a radical political agenda can gain a hearing among goodhearted people like my friend. Does this also indicate a problem with modern American evangelicalism -- having internalized the Leftist guilt trip and anxious not to seem wedded to political conservativism for the sake of reaching Millenials, must they credulously accept whatever Leftist grievance-mongers claim?

The only antidote is for Americans to understand our history -- not the malevolent caricature concocted by the Left, but the original documents and context -- and to be unafraid to correct the misconceptions being promoted by professional ax-grinders.

In a similar context in 2007, Michael Medved wrote:

The notion that unique viciousness to Native Americans represents our "original sin" fails to put European contact with these struggling Stone Age societies in any context whatever, and only serves the purposes of those who want to foster inappropriate guilt, uncertainty and shame in young Americans.

One of the most urgent needs in culture and education for the United States of America is discarding the stupid, groundless and anti-American lies that characterize contemporary political correctness.

Rush Limbaugh, Jr., father of the radio talk show host, wrote an essay on the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, "The Americans Who Risked Everything":

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.

It is reasonable to be disappointed in the direction of our national culture, but we should rekindle the Spirit of '76 in our own hearts. We should reacquaint ourselves with the words of the Declaration of Independence and the brave men who signed their names to it, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, and we should resolve to be as bold in the defense of our liberties as they were.

Over at The Federalist (which is rapidly becoming my favorite site for news and opinion), Peter Burfeind has written an essay that explains the philosophical roots of the sexual revolution in this country, as part of a larger rebellion against nature and reality -- an ancient rebellion known as Gnosticism: "Gnostic Mysticism Grounds Modern Progressive Ideology." I want you to read the whole thing, but I need to quote a few points to pique your interest.

Marriage institutionalizes the reproductive system in the same way a restaurant or dinner table institutionalizes the digestive system. Again, cultural variances are granted, but the basic natural order of male sex organ depositing seed into female sex organ in order to propagate the species is simply what the reproductive organs and system are all about.

True, nature introduced attraction to the mix to draw male and female together, but, like tastes in food, the attraction fosters a greater biological purpose. Historically, societies have wrestled with the tension between the pure biological purpose and the element of attraction, in regards to both reproduction and digestion, but generally when the attraction becomes totally disconnected from the biological purpose, this has been seen as indulgence, gluttony, promiscuity, and immoderate behavior.

Such nature-based reasoning is downright offensive in a post-'60s world where sexuality has indeed been disconnected from its biological and natural purpose and rests in personal attraction alone. The spiritual pathology of this cultural revolution is exactly this revolution toward Gnostic paradigms of thinking, particularly its understanding of sexual love.....

Burfeind asks us to consider the absurdity of divorcing sexuality from biological reality with an illustration of the consequences of divorcing eating from biological reality:

Let's say I determined the biological "rules" of the digestive system were oppressive. Let's say I preferred to glory in the taste of food alone, but not its digestion, so that I vomited everything I ate. Let's say I got my nutrition intravenously, so that wasn't an issue.

Society currently calls this an "eating disorder," but isn't such thinking oppressively bound by the natural "rules" of the digestive system, the "rules" of our biology? ...

But what about biology? What about the digestive system and its clear biological purpose? Ahhh, this is where our Gnosticism comes in handy, because all nature-based or flesh-based "systems" are inherently unjust and oppressive, creating prison cells from which true redemption demands an escape. In a way, the vomiter is the truly liberated one, one of the few not oppressed by his biology....

Matching people against the standards set by biological realities has always been a trustworthy way of identifying disorders, and in the end it actually helped people. When that standard is removed as oppressive, people will be left to wallow in an understanding of humanity rooted not in nature but self-determination alone. Psychology categorized homosexuality a disorder until 1973 for a reason, because it was and remains a breach of the natural reproductive order.

Now that the Supreme Court has legalized gay marriage for all states, and the Rubicon of nature-rebellion has been completely crossed, what real authority remains to declare anything a disorder? As many conservative commentators have pointed out, what argument remains to say "body integrity identity disorder" is not simply the misnomer for transabled people who can only live out their "authentic" identity once they've cut off the limb they feel shouldn't exist?

Of course this is madness, but if madness is sacralized through a wave of pop-culture affirmation and nature is chased out with pitchfork, what real argument does society have to declare anything a disorder? We already allow a male who believes himself female to amputate his sex organ. Why not amputation of limbs?

Again, I urge you to read the whole thing, and you might find Burfeind's blog Gnostic America interesting.

Literary critic Harold Bloom's 1992 book, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation, looked at popular religious movements in America through the lens of his own Gnostic faith, and found Gnosticism expressed in Mormonism, Word-Faith Pentecostalism, and the Southern Baptist Convention. Regarding the SBC, Bloom was specifically referring to the "soul competency" doctrine that became prevalent under the early 20th century leadership of E. Y. Mullins, and not the recapture of the SBC in the 1980s by adherents of Biblical inerrancy:

For Bloom, who argues that Americans are prone to a Gnosticism through self-worship. Mullins is the pioneer of the Southern Baptist tradition taken up by moderates in the inerrancy controversy, "the definer of their creedless faith." According to Bloom, Mullins' doctrine of soul competency so focuses all meaning and truth in the autonomous individual-"sanctioning endless interpretive possibilities"-that all religious authority is vaporized, even the authority of Scripture.

Mullins has been portrayed as a bold progressivist seeking to bring enlightenment to Southern Baptists, but thwarted by insularity and conservative opposition; and as a calculating denominational politician, who changed his colors in order to save his seminary and his personal leadership....

The central thrust of E. Y. Mullins' theological legacy is his focus on individual experience. Whatever his intention, this massive methodological shift in theology set the stage for doctrinal ambiguity and theological minimalism. The compromise Mullins sought to forge in the 1920s was significantly altered by later generations, with personal experience inevitably gaining ground at the expense of revealed truth.

Once the autonomous individual is made the central authority in matters of theology-a move made necessary by Mullins' emphasis on religious experience-the authority of Scripture becomes secondary at best, regardless of what may be claimed in honor of Scripture's preeminence. Either personal experience will be submitted to revelation, or revelation will be submitted to personal experience. There is no escape from this theological dilemma, and every theologian must choose between these two methodological options. The full consequences of a shift in theological method may take generations to appear, but by the 1960s most Southern Baptists were aware of a growing theological divide within the denomination, and especially its seminaries.

In 1990, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was founded by dissenters from the conservative resurgence in the SBC. The CBF became a home for Baptist pastors, scholars, and leaders who embraced Mullins' emphasis on individual experience and elevated individual autonomy over doctrine. Although the CBF is miniscule compared to the SBC (roughly 1900 congregations to 46000; the CBF doesn't maintain membership counts), SBC pews are still full of congregants whose understanding of the Christian faith was shaped by the Mullins perspective, as expressed in the education materials produced by the SBC's Sunday School Board and in pastors educated in Baptist colleges and seminaries during the years of Mullinsite dominance.

Just under the wire, I submitted my comments a week ago Saturday on the draft for public comment of the proposed zoning code for the City of Tulsa. This is a critical document for Tulsa's future, far more important than the debate over water-in-the-river.

The current zoning code is nearly 40 years old, based on the Vision 2000 comprehensive planning process of the 1970s. While the current code has been tweaked at the margins, it still reflects the view of urban planning that was in vogue in the age of bell bottoms, earth tones, and avocado green kitchen appliances: Strictly segregate work from home from church from school from shopping. Zone for what happens inside the building, rather than for what affects the neighbors (parking, noise, building scale and appearance). Treat established neighborhoods as obsolete areas in need of redevelopment.

The mid-'70s planning approach dates back even further. You can see the same themes in the earliest planning documents produced by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission in the late '50s. These principles have shaped Tulsa's development as it tripled in land area in 1966 and filled in the new territory over the next half-century, producing the traffic headaches we see particularly in south Tulsa and the erosion of many of Tulsa's closer-in pre-war neighborhoods.

Tulsa's new comprehensive plan reflects a better approach to development, as I explained when I spoke in support of its adoption in 2010:

The PLANiTULSA Policy Plan does an admirable job of accommodating growth and redevelopment while protecting the qualities that make most of Tulsa's neighborhoods desirable places to live, shop, play, and work. If the plan's recommendations are adopted and ultimately implemented in the City of Tulsa zoning code, the result will be clear, objective standards and a predictable environment for all stakeholders, including both property owners and developers. That predictable environment will help to reduce conflicts, uncertainty, and costs in redevelopment.

(In a 2006 column, I explained in greater detail the principles that should guide the ideal system of land-use regulation.)

Note the emphasis added above. The comprehensive plan doesn't accomplish anything unless it guides the development of city ordinances and capital improvements. So the City of Tulsa hired Duncan Associates to develop a new zoning code guided by the plan, and in February a draft was released, opening a four-month public comment period. On the Feedback Tulsa website -- the City's official online forum -- you can read background information about the draft zoning code, the draft, and the public comments that were submitted.

While you can find the draft code on the city's website, here is a local copy of the 2015 draft Tulsa zoning code for your convenience.

I submitted a brief overall comment and a spreadsheet of comments addressing specific provisions of the code. Here's the overall comment:

The draft code is well-organized, and the language is clear. The illustrations are helpful. I appreciate the thrust of the code toward handling routine and benign matters administratively rather than continuing to clog the BoA and Council agendas. The addition of new building types and new zoning types is also welcome. It should be remembered that the zoning code exists to serve the interests of all Tulsans -- home owners, commercial property owners, and tenants -- not just the interests of those who make a living in the real estate and development industry.

While the zoning code draft embodies many of the principles set out in the new comprehensive plan, it appears to bear the hatchet marks of development lobbyists seeking to continue to do business the same old way. Effectively killing form-based codes, granting of significant authority to a temporary city contractor, building high hurdles for the establishment of overlay districts which are weaker than those available in peer cities in this region, and limiting historic preservation to residential areas are examples of the vandalism that appears to have been perpetrated in the drafting of this code by those who were granted a special seat at the table.

In addition to the comments below, I concur with the comments submitted by Tulsa Now and Jamie Jamieson.

After submitting my comments, I noticed several more that I would endorse; I'll try to provide some excerpts in a separate entry. Here is a link to Tulsa Now's statement on the draft zoning code.

I should explain the reference to a temporary city contractor. The City of Tulsa contracts with the Indian Nations Council of Governments (INCOG) to maintain its zoning and planning records and to analyze and make recommendations on zoning, special exception, and variance cases that come before the city's Board of Adjustment and the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. INCOG has two core roles under state statute, but its role in the City of Tulsa's land use planning process is contractual and renewed annually. It is also somewhat redundant, as Tulsa has its own planning staff which is quite capable of analyzing applications and making recommendations as well. Most of Tulsa's neighboring municipalities handle zoning and planning internally -- their own staff and their own planning commission, more directly accountable to the voters' elected representatives.

The draft of the zoning code gives considerable discretionary powers to a "land use administrator" who is identified as the director of development services for INCOG. One provision in the draft code gives the same discretionary power to both the land use administrator and the development administrator (an official in the City's planning department), presumably so that if a developer doesn't get the answer he wants from one official, he can get approval from the other official. If this INCOG land use administrator is biased in the exercise of his discretionary powers, city officials would have very little recourse. In my comments, I state that INCOG staff should only be given the task of record-keeping and administering the process; discretionary powers should be retained within city government.

My suspicion is that the development industry representatives who were given a special seat at the table to guide the drafting of the zoning code felt that they would have more influence, as they have in the past, over INCOG planning staff than over City of Tulsa planning staff.

And here (after the jump) are my comments on specific provisions:

As they did in Israel in March, the pollsters misread the sentiments of the British electorate leading to last Thursday's general election. What was supposed to be a dead heat between the Conservative and Labour Parties, with a likely hung parliament and a possible constitutional crisis, turned out to be a clear majority for the Tories. The consensus is that British voters -- specifically English voters -- did not want Labour leader and staunch socialist Ed Miliband as prime minister, and they turned out to vote Conservative to prevent that eventuality.

But why were the polls so far off? Janet Daley, writing in The Telegraph, thinks the "Shy Tory" phenomenon is a reaction to leftist bullies.

Somehow we have arrived at a point where the conscientiously held beliefs and values of the majority of the population have become a matter for secret shame. The desire to do as well as you can in life, to develop your potential and expect to be rewarded for it, to provide your family with the greatest possible opportunity for self-improvement and to do that on your own without being dependent on the state - these are the assumptions that seem to have become so unacceptable that identifying with them is beyond the pale, or at least so socially outrageous that it is not worth the ignominy of admitting to them.

The Left has so dominated the conversation and so noisily traduced the "petit bourgeois" values that guide the lives of what used to be called the "respectable working class" that, ironically, it is only the most socially confident who can openly embrace them. The very people whom Labour needs to attract (and which it did attract when it had re-invented itself as New Labour) are once again being bullied into hiding their true attitudes and opinions.

So they prevaricate and evade when asked how they will vote because they are intimidated by the condemnation of the Left-wing mob, or else they just are not self-assured enough to make the moral case (even in their own minds) for their choice. But when they reach the sacred solitude of the voting booth, they do what they know must be done for the sake of their own futures, and that of their families, and even of those the Left insists are being disadvantaged - because they genuinely believe that dependency is a bad thing and that self-determination is a social good.

In the end, what does the Left (and its army of media friends) accomplish by all this activist pressure on public opinion? In a circle of mutually congratulatory agreement, the liberal establishment may demonise the social attitudes of the majority until they are blue in the face. They may succeed - as indeed they obviously have - in making ordinary people afraid to utter their real views. But there is a dreadful price to be paid: if you browbeat people into withdrawing from the debate, then you will never know how robust their convictions are - until it is too late and you have catastrophically lost an election, or staked your professional credibility on unsound predictions.

This is the danger of the activist trap. As I said last week, if you are surrounded by a crowd of people whose opinions are identical to yours then together you can make a great deal of noise. But what you don't hear is the silence of those outside the crowd. If parties of the Left are ever to become electable again, they will have to stop shouting and listen.

Young Conservative Lewis Barber wondered why, given the economic success of the Conservative-led government elected in 2010, the party's supporters were shy about voicing support on social media:

So, why is there such hesitancy among Conservative voters to support this record? The simple answer is that for many, particularly students like myself, it is still seen as taboo to support the Conservative Party. F**k Tories signs dotted across university, student unions dominated by the far left - who worry more about solidarity with Peruvian revolutionaries than they do about issues for students on campus - and being called a murderer for expressing right wing opinions - all combine to make it feel as if the Left has a monopoly on university life.

Nonetheless, nowhere is being a shy Tory more encouraged than on social media, specifically Facebook, where any movement away from the "progressive line" is treated as treason. Tories are seen as inherently bad. Those who support fiscal sensibility are painted as devious or tricksters who have pulled the wool over an electorate made out to be naturally left wing. On an event created to "Stop the Tory Coup" one user claimed the election was "a fix" - and started to organise a protest against the democratic outcome.

After the election such self-righteousness continued. One Facebook user claimed that someone was simply "wrong" when a friend posted he thought Britain had made the right decision. Another Facebook user claimed the electorate were "simply not ready for someone who knew what they were doing" in reference to the poor showing by Miliband's party.

John Leisk, from Colchester, a seat that swung to Conservatives against polling, gave what he thought was the reason for him being a shy Tory: " Supporters of Labour and other left wing parties are convinced they have the moral high ground and that any disagreement is inhumane, as a result any confession of Tory support is shouted down and abused." Is it worth the effort? Not really.

I think Janet Daley is a bit too sanguine about the activist trap. The Left benefits when they succeed in shouting people down. If the silent majority remains silent, the next generation gets the impression that those views are invalid. If no one dares defend an idea, it must be indefensible. If no one else expresses an opinion I hold, am I crazy to hold it?

That's why the Left is so insistent on driving conservatives out of positions of cultural influence. Rush Limbaugh and the conservative talk radio revolution he led have been crucial to the morale of ordinary conservatives. A conservative college professor can be a lifeline to a wavering student from a conservative background. A sharp-tongued essayist like Matt Walsh may not make many converts, but he provides reassurance and encouragement to social conservatives by articulating the rationale undergirding our convictions.

The challenge for conservative organizations, activists, and citizens is to find ways to get their messages of encouragement to their fellow conservatives and to defend conservative values in the hearing of persuadable friends, while denying the lefties a venue for their demoralizing efforts. There are technologies available for those who know where to look.

Johnny_Gimble-Texas_Fiddle_Collection.jpg

Legendary fiddler Johnny Gimble died today at the age of 88.

Gimble was hired by Bob Wills for the Texas Playboys in 1949. After a few years on the road, he retired to barbering and playing music on the weekends. But in 1968 he moved to Nashville and made his mark as a well-regarded session musician. Bob Wills recommended Gimble to Merle Haggard for Haggard's tribute album to Wills, and Gimble was on Wills' final album, For the Last Time in 1973. His frequent guest spots on A Prairie Home Companion brought Western Swing fiddle to the awareness of a broader audience. His brilliance at improvisation outshone his contemporaries and stayed bright for well over a half-century. He was also accomplished on mandolin, and he can be heard playing the instrument on many of the Texas Playboys' late '40s, early '50s sides for MGM.

The best tribute I can manage is for you to hear Johnny Gimble playing. Here he is from 1977, with Merle Haggard, Tiny Moore, and Eldon Shamblin:

From 1981, a music-heavy documentary called Gimble's Swing, featuring Eldon Shamblin. (I'm pretty sure there's a glimpse of Tulsa trumpeter Mike Bennett in this show.)

Here's Johnny Gimble fiddling around with Mark O'Connor:

Johnny Gimble plays Bob Wills' part (as he did in the Clint Eastwood movie Honkytonk Man) on San Antonio Rose, with Asleep at the Wheel, and Texas Playboys bandmate Herb Remington on steel guitar:

Here's a 40-minute profile featuring Johnny Gimble telling his own life story:

Can't embed this one, but here's Johnny Gimble playing "Take Me Back to Tulsa" with George Jones and his band.

And finally, from his Texas Fiddle Collection, "Goodnight Waltz":

(Sadly missing from the Internet: The 1981 Austin City Limits episode featuring Johnny Gimble, Jethro Burns, and Tiny Moore, playing swing mandolin, backed by Eldon Shamblin and David Grisman. KLRU sends a takedown notice every time it's posted online.)

Yet another grim commemoration.

Stella Morabito, granddaughter of survivors, writes in The Federalist: 1.5 million Armenian Christians were systematically slaughtered by the government of the Ottoman Empire. It was jumpstarted on April 24, 1915, when hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were rounded up in Constantinople, arrested, and killed.

The goal was to exterminate every Armenian Christian, whether child, woman, or man. The killings themselves often included all manner of butchery, torture, and humiliation. My grandmother lamented the crucifixion of her father, who was known in the village as a holy man.

Another part of this extermination program involved deportations that forced Armenians out of their homes and basically put them on death marches into the Syrian Desert. Many died of starvation and exhaustion on these caravans. Others succumbed to diseases like typhus in lice-infested camp conditions. Young Armenian women who were not raped and killed could end up Islamified and taken in as wives or concubines. My grandmother's younger sister was taken into a harem....

The starting point was April 24, 1915, with the arrests of community leaders in Constantinople. The killings continued after the war, and included destruction from the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922--which my grandparents also survived. Tens of thousands of Armenians and Greeks lost their lives in that fire and the Armenian and Greek sections of the city were utterly destroyed. By 1923, the killing relented. A chronology of the genocide is here.

Raymond Ibrahim, writing for PJ Media points out that the Ottoman purge included all Christians, not just Armenians:

Today, April 24, we remember how exactly 100 years ago the last historic Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, tried to cleanse its empire of Christian minorities -- Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks -- even as we stand by watching as the new caliphate, the Islamic State, resumes the genocide.

And in both cases, the atrocities were and are being committed in the name of Islam.

In November, 1914, during WWI, the Ottoman caliphate issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, proclaiming it a "sacred duty" for all Muslims to "massacre" infidels -- specifically naming the "Christian men" of the Triple Entente, "the enemies of Islam" -- with promises of great rewards in the afterlife.

The same Koran verses that the Islamic State and other jihadi outfits regularly quote permeated the Ottoman fatwa, including: "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them -- seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them" (9:5) and "O you who have believed! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them" (5:51) -- and several other verses that form the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity....

As happens to this very day, the Muslims of the Ottoman caliphate, not able to reach or defeat the stronger infidel -- the "Christian men" of Britain, France, and Russia -- satiated their bloodlust on their Christian subjects. And they justified the genocide by projecting the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity onto Christians -- saying that, because Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks were Christian, they were naturally aiding the other "Christian men" of the West.

As happens to this day under the new caliphate -- the Islamic State -- the Ottoman caliphate crucified, beheaded, tortured, mutilated, raped, enslaved, and otherwise massacred countless "infidel" Christians. The official number of Armenians killed in the genocide is 1.5 million; hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians each were also systematically slaughtered (see this document for statistics).

(Although today marks the "Armenian Genocide," often forgotten is that Assyrians and Greeks were also targeted for cleansing by the Ottoman caliphate. The only thing that distinguished Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek subjects of the caliphate from Turkish subjects was that the three former were Christian. As one Armenian studies professor asks, "If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?")

Armenia was the first nation to become officially Christian, in the 3rd century AD. The regions that were later incorporated into the Ottoman Empire included the Holy Land itself, the cradle of Christianity, and the lands through which the apostle Paul journeyed and planted churches. The southwestern part of modern-day Turkey is the site of the seven cities of the Roman Province of Asia to whose churches Christ directs letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. It was in the same region that many of the ecumenical councils of early Christianity were held. The lands were part of the Christian Byzantine Empire until their gradual conquest by Muslims.

It's interesting to note that this religious purge began not under the dictatorial rule of the sultan, but during the "Second Constitutional Era," under a democratically elected reformist party.

Stella Morabito concludes:

If we corrupt the language so that we do not acknowledge genocide when it happens--as President Obama just did--then we feed into the expectations of all potential perpetrators that they can easily get away with murder. So we are liable to see genocide and other forms of mass slaughter repeated. No true civilization can afford to falsify the historical record or corrupt the language.

Inscribed on one of the walls of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a stark lesson in this. It is a statement by Adolph Hitler, who rationalized mass slaughter and expected people simply to avert their eyes and forget: "Who, after all, today speaks of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

The headline quote is from the Grauniad*, the left-wing British newspaper, from an editorial pooh-poohing concerns about the marginalization of Christians in the officially Christian United Kingdom.

Here's the context (emphasis added):

They claim then that it would violate their consciences to do or say certain things which society as a whole has determined are moral. This won't do. Conscience cannot provide "a get out of jail free" card, neither metaphorically nor, should it come to that, literally. We all have consciences but there is no guarantee they will lead us to the same conclusions. This fact is literally tragic, as the Greeks knew. Nonetheless, any society has to privilege some ethical viewpoint and some virtues.

In the west we privilege conflicting but broadly liberal values. We no longer privilege the authority of the Bible. So, once we have determined that discrimination against homosexuals violates the principle of equality - and that is the settled position in both law and public opinion now - the fact that some people are compelled by their consciences to disagree does not exempt them from behaving as if it were true. There cannot be a special exemption for mistaken beliefs held on religious grounds when these harm others.

The Christian Institute, an organization that defends the rights of British Christians to live out their faith in an officially Christian nation, responded to the Grauniad:

Institute spokesman Simon Calvert said: "Most UK Christians do not need The Guardian to remind them that their own marginalisation should not be put on a par with the persecution of believers overseas."

"But this does not mean that highlighting such marginalisation is 'hysterical'. Why are Christians the only people the Guardian thinks should keep quiet when they are mistreated?

"The editorial seems to equate 'civilised society' to 'endorsing homosexual relationships'. In so doing it seeks to devalue centuries of orthodox Christian thinking and entirely ignore the fact that Christianity has made arguably the biggest single contribution to the civilised society our country has enjoyed for hundreds of years.

"More than that, they ignore the fact that the principle of religious liberty, Christians being able to live out their faith in the public square, is vital for a truly civilised society....

"After years of being told that Christian morality should not be allowed to have any influence on the law, Christians might be surprised to see The Guardian now admitting that 'any society has to privilege some ethical viewpoint and some virtues'. Clearly, they mean their own secularist viewpoint, not the Christian one, which they assert is 'mistaken'."

So much for pluralism. The Left was all about toleration and pluralism during the Gramscian march through the institutions. Having been tolerated and allowed to rise through the ranks, they begin to crack down on conservatives, to hinder their promotion, or exclude them from admission altogether. We've seen this in academia, we've seen it in church organizations, we've seen it in the entertainment industry. Conservatives in these institutions find themselves having to hide their views to keep their careers.

The Presbyterian Church USA provides an early example. Only 11 years passed between the Auburn Affirmation of 1924, which argued for toleration of heterodox views within the northern denomination, and the 1935 expulsion of J. Gresham Machen from ministry within that denomination. Having gained control of the denomination, the Leftists purged Princeton Theological Seminary in 1929. When conservatives, in response, founded an independent seminary and missions board, in 1934 the Leftists punished and expelled ministers who cooperated with them. In ten years, the Leftists went from saying that the denomination's General Assembly had no authority to require adherence to orthodox Christian doctrine to saying that the General Assembly had the authority to forbid the support of independent, orthodox Christian organizations -- that is, organizations which the Leftists did not control -- under pain of expulsion.

Truth can tolerate the existence of error, but the Leftist worldview, grounded as it is in delusions about reality, requires the totalitarian suppression of truth.

Having purged the cultural institutions and used them to brainwash those members of the public not firmly grounded in the truth, the Left is now purging the general public. You can believe the truth, but you have to behave as if the Left's delusions are true.

Since the Left is finally being honest about the reality that some ethical viewpoint will control society, conservatives should not be shy about working to recapture the culture for the worldview and values that built a peaceful and prosperous civilzation, while working to displace from positions of cultural influence the advocates of destructive doctrines that have led to an explosion of relational breakdown, mental illness, and violence.

Retaking the culture is not about mere partisanship -- "we like our side better than your side." It's about rebuilding a safe and stable society to everyone's benefit.

This is a long-term project, but so was the Left's Gramscian march. It will be difficult, because, as they have for many years, the Left will use their control of institutions to pose as dispassionate experts. Conservative efforts to retake control of our public schools and universities will be characterized as "politicizing" supposedly neutral institutions, and naive folks who are themselves conservative will be led to resist. The fight over AP US History was a preview of coming attractions. I was amazed to see friends who are politically and religiously conservative join in the outcry against the legislative bill to offer an alternative, in response to the Leftist changes to the AP US History curriculum. They believed the line that legislators were politicizing the course, but not the Leftists who were remaking the course to serve their political ends, because the College Board was seen as some neutral authority -- a neutral authority with the power to withhold a desired credential.

As conservative Presbyterians learned in the 1920s and 1930s (and in every decade since then), the Left is not going to allow anyone to opt out, not without paying a heavy price. (Just ask the folks at Kirk of the Hills Church.)

P. S. Some conservative pundits have criticized conservative efforts in the 1980s, like the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition to exert political influence through the Republican Party, while neglecting the importance of cultural institutions. It seems to me that politics was the only earthly lever available, even at that point. The Left had already consolidated control of academia, entertainment, and the Democratic Party.

P. P. S. Just as the Leftist takeover of the mainline Presbyterian denomination is a useful paradigm for understanding the Left's strategy, the conservative retaking of the Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s can serve as a paradigm for fighting back.

* The Grauniad is the nickname given to the paper by the satirical magazine Private Eye.

MORE about Prof. Machen and the Leftist capture of the PCUSA:

Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Machen led the founding of the OPC after his expulsion from the PCUSA.

"The Necessity of the Christian School," a lecture delivered by Machen to the 1933 convention of the National Union of Christian Schools.

Christianity in Conflict, Machen's own account of the controversies of his career.

MORE: Erick Erickson has a fresh example of the culture war within the church: The North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church replaced a pastor against the wishes of the congregation, because the pastor had signed a statement in support of existing denominational policy on marriage.

The church's pastor, Dr. Carole Hulslander, and her husband Douglas used their own funds to help start the church fifteen years ago.

But after Dr. Hulslander signed a "Unity and Integrity" statement calling on the United Methodist Church to maintain its standards of Biblical integrity with regard to marriage, the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church sought to remove her....

Two weeks before Easter, the District Superintendent showed up with a new pastor. When the Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee refused to allow a service that Sunday morning, because the District had violated the church's Book of Church Discipline, the congregation retreated to their fellowship hall to sing and pray. The new pastor came in and began berating one of the members of the congregation. The new pastor demanded keys be handed over. When others intervened to calm the situation, the new pastor told the congregation to 'f*ck off'." The lion that would separate the sheep from their shepherd now paces around the walls of this church.

So it would appear that, although the national denomination has not yet been fully captured by the Left, the regional body has been, and they are seeking to drive out opposition to make it easier to win at the national level. The real estate arrangements in the denomination mean that the hierarchy could deprive the congregation of the church they built with their own funds. Like the historic Episcopal parishes at Truro and Falls Church in northern Virginia, like Church of the Holy Spirit in Tulsa, they will likely have to forfeit that investment and fund another meeting place. (Tulsa's Kirk of the Hills was at least able to ransom their property, but it doesn't sound like the North Georgia Conference will let these people off that easily.) With the Left, it always seems to come around to cursing and coercion, and they're not shy about using the power they have to crush opposition, because they know their fellow-travelers in the mainstream media will find a way to paint them in a sympathetic light.

MORE: Writing for Media Research Center, Jeff Dunetz documents Hillary Clinton's aim to "privilege some ethical viewpoint" by suppressing religious beliefs that hinder the unfettered practice of abortion. Dunetz quotes a Daily Caller report of Clinton's speech last week to the 2015 Women in the World Summit:

"Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth, and laws don't count for much if they're not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice -- not just on paper," Clinton said.

"Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will," she explained. "And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed. As I have said and as I believe, the advancement of the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of their societies is the great unfinished business of the 21st century and not just for women but for everyone -- and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States."

It's a clear expression of the missionary drive of the Leftist religion. Converts must be made, if not by persuasion, then by the exertion of political will. More of a jihad than a mission, really.

(Clinton is right about one thing: "Rights have to exist in practice -- not just on paper." Freedom of religion is worthless if it merely means the freedom to believe something in your own head while being compelled by the state to behave as if lies were true.)

Dunetz points out that this is not a new stance for Clinton. He points to two examples where Clinton condemned Israeli government accommodations to Orthodox Jewish practice.

[In a 2011 speech, Clinton] referred to the decision of some male Orthodox IDF soldiers to leave an event where female soldiers were singing (Orthodox men do not believe in listening to the singing voice of women). Ms Clinton said it reminded her of the situation in Iran. Of course, in Iran, the women may have been lashed or executed for violating gender codes. In Israel, the women sang, but the men who felt it was against their religious beliefs to listen to a woman sing were allowed to walk out.

She also expressed outrage at the small number of Jerusalem buses that offer sex-segregated seating to meet the needs of Orthodox men and women who are shomer negiah, avoiding physical contact with the opposite sex outside of family relationships in order to guard purity.

Some interesting observations about the people of Oklahoma City and the memorial they created and maintain, from NYU media, culture, and communication professor Marita Sturken in her 2007 Duke University Press book Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero.

One of the primary ways that individuals are encouraged to interact at the memorial is through the fence that is now placed on an outside wall at its entrance. This was the same fence where people initially left objects. The designers had envisioned three small sections of fence in the children's area that would encourage a similar activity, arguing that the fence itself was not as important as "what the fence allows to happen." Yet several family members were concerned that this fence, which had been so important to them in those first years, would be lost, even though a few felt it was an "immature" form of memorial. When the memorial was completed, the fence was transported by volunteers to an outside wall, where it is both separate from and part of an entry into the memorial. The material on the fence is only a fraction of the massive inventory of objects that the memorial has acquired and which are part of its archive.

In its incorporation into the memorial design, the fence remains a primary site where people come to leave objects and messages. There are much-considered rules concerning this activity and these objects, which reflect the overall thoughtfulness and intensity of the memorial's intended rituals. Objects that are left on the fence are allowed to stay for a maximum of thirty days. The memorial staff then removes them if they are not related to a particular victim or agency and according to issues of space and durability. The memorial staff will not place something at the fence if someone sends it in; it must be placed there in person. Rules are different for the chairs, where items are left for seventy-two hours after an anniversary ceremony and otherwise removed and discarded after twenty-four hours (though the staff will, on request, move an object then to the fence). This policy was the result of an extended debate among families, survivors, and rescue workers because many survivors and rescuers thought that it would look tacky to have objects left on the chairs.

The Memorial Center, which opened In February 2001, now houses a massive and growing collection of materials in its archive. According to the archivist Jane Thomas, once people realized that their collection was "more than 3,000 teddy bears," they began to send in other materials: photographs, documents, artwork, and personal material from families; trial materials; and documents, such as surveys, from the process of writing the mission statement of the memorial. The archive has six areas of collection: the history of the site; the incident itself, including rescue and recovery; responses to the event, including media coverage; the investigation and trial; spinoffs, such as new regulations and laws that resulted; and memorialization. It now houses over eight hundred thousand pieces, including documents related to the McVeigh and Nichols trials, seventy thousand photographs, newspaper articles, and over one hundred thousand objects, such as cards, letters, quilts, art objects, uniforms, memorial designs, the personal effects of some victims, reporters' notes, shattered glass from the building, and items from the building such as the playhouse from the day care center's play yard....

The memorial design thus encourages many different kinds of responses, encompassing as it does a broad range of spaces, each with particular intent. Visitors are encouraged to be active in responding to the memorial, by leaving objects on the fence or drawing things in the children's area. People often depart from the proscribed codes in interacting with the memorial, for instance, dipping their hands into the water in order to leave handprints on the bronze gates. The memorial is open all the time and is a place that people often wander through at night. It is staffed constantly by volunteers, many of whom are survivors. Many family members and survivors work as docents for the Memorial Center and are frequent visitors to it. It has what is often referred to as a fervent volunteer culture, with seventy-five volunteers working every week.

The memorial is thus integrated into the community of Oklahoma City in complex ways that are about integrating a difficult past into the everyday. This intense community involvement is a factor in the relationship of the memorial to the National Park Service, which is in charge of the rangers and brochures at the site. According to the memorial's executive director, Kari Watkins, the Memorial Foundation restructured its relationship to the NPS in 2005. The NPS, says Watkins. expected the local community to recede as it has at other, similar sites, but the community in Oklahoma City is too invested to fully hand over the site. Thus, as in the design of the memorial, the local community has consistently made clear, both emotionally and financially, its ownership of this memorial site. This incorporation of the memorial into the city has been facilitated by the sense of community and local pride that is a part of the memorial, and its pedagogical mission, one that is fervently expressed and dedicatedly carried out, and that centers in many ways on an embrace of citizenship and civic life.

What follows is my blog entry from the 10th anniversary. My wife and I had visited the memorial a few days before, when we were in town for the Oklahoma Republican Convention. I don't think I can improve upon what was written by those who were there. I've updated links where I could.

Much has been written by those who were in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Rather than try to improve on their work, or even try to meaningfully excerpt it, I'll send you their way. They are all must-reads.

Jan, the Happy Homemaker was picked up by a friend and they went to volunteer at University Hospital. She ended up carrying equipment to the triage site and was overwhelmed by what she saw there.

Don Danz felt the explosion four blocks away, then went with a coworker to look for her dad, who worked in the Murrah Building. Don has a map showing damaged buildings as distant as a mile away.

Mike's Noise has a series of posts: His memories of the day of the bombing, a gallery of links, photos he took in the days and weeks following the bombing, profiles of the perpetrators, and unanswered questions -- what about John Doe No. 2, stories of multiple bombs and multiple explosions, and rumors of advance warning of an attack.

Charles G. Hill links to his reaction to media coverage on the first anniversary of the bombing, and on the 10th anniversary his thoughts on what the perps intended to teach us, and what Oklahoma Citians learned instead about themselves. In a separate entry, Charles links to several other first-person accounts, including this one by Chase McInerney, who was on the scene as a working journalist.

Downtown Guy was there, too:

I was there on April 19th. No, thank God, I wasn't a victim, and I wasn't in the buildings when the blast went off. But I was out there soon after. Without risking letting out who I am, let's just say I was out there serving the public. I saw horrible things I never thought I'd see. I saw a person die. And with all the hype out there right now, the image is haunting me again.

I didn't know how much the bombing effected me until the second anniversary. A procession of victims marched through downtown. I watched. I started sweating. My head felt like it was about to explode. I rushed to an alley next to the old library. I threw up in the weeds.

I remember the initial reports, speculating about a natural gas main explosion, then the suggestion that this might be linked to foreign terrorism (remember, it was just two years since the first attack on the World Trade Center), rumors that some Middle Eastern man had been apprehended at the Oklahoma City airport. They found a part of the bomb truck, tracked the VIN back to a rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and before long we had sketches of two John Does. It wasn't much longer with John Doe No. 1 was apprehended near Perry, driving a car without a license plate.

I visited the site three weeks later, just after my second nephew was born a few miles away at Baptist Hospital. The building still stood there, agape, awaiting demolition. Teddy bears, flowers, photos, and other tokens of remembrance lined the chain link fence.

Mikki and I visited the memorial on Sunday [in April 2005]. I am not fond of the memorial. I don't think we know how to build memorials any more, and I don't have high hopes for what will be built at Ground Zero in New York. It's too big, too grand, too sleek, too clean. But there are a few things about it, mainly small, simple, untidy things, that touch the heart:

  • Among the Field of Chairs, 19 chairs aren't as big as the others.
  • The Survivor Tree -- an elm that once stood in the middle of an asphalt parking lot across the street from the blast is now the focal point and the symbol of the memorial. It's the one spot of shade and shelter at the memorial.
  • The graffito, spraypainted on the Journal Record building by a rescue worker: "Team 5 / 4-19-95 / We search for the truth. We seek Justice. The Courts Require it. The Victims Cry for it. And GOD Demands it"
  • The fence -- it's still there, still hung with memories of lives cut short, beautiful young women, bright-eyed kids, moms and dads. It must have driven the memorial's designer nuts to know that this garden-variety chain link fence and its jumble of sentimental trinkets would continue to stand next to the sleek and stark gates.

Two neighboring churches have built their own small memorials across the street. St. Joseph's Old Cathedral has a statue of Jesus, weeping, facing away from the building and toward a wall with 168 niches. A message from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma, Eusebius Beltran, explaining the significance of the statue and the design of the memorial, is posted nearby. First Methodist Church built a small open-air chapel shortly after the bombing as a place for prayer and worship for those visiting the site. These two simple shrines far better capture the Spirit that drew rescue workers and volunteers from across the state and the nation to comfort the dying, tend the wounded, search for the lost, clear away the debris, and begin to put a city back together again.

MORE:

Here is Charles G. Hill's reflection on the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

The Oklahoman profiles Frank and Donna Sisson, caretakers for almost 20 years of the open-air Heartland Chapel at First Methodist.

Reporter Jayna Davis has written and updated a book on her investigation of the identity of "John Doe No. 2" and the possible connection to hostile regimes and factions in the Middle East: The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing. Here is a 2011 article by Davis about the declassified 2005 FBI interrogation of convicted bomber Terry
Nichols
:

During the interview, the convicted bomber unleashed a startling admission: John Doe 2 exists. The FBI report states, "Nichols advised that John Doe 2's name had not been mentioned during the (FBI) investigation, and therefore, he feared for his life and his family's well-being should it become public."

The late McCurtain County Gazette journalist J. D. Cash pursued the bombers' connections to the white-supremacist movement. Cash and his work were profiled by Darcy O'Brien in The New Yorker in 1997. On Cash's death in 2007, Mike McCarville wrote:

His writings about the Oklahoma City bombing first gained attention because they included interviews with an undercover IRS operative who maintained that she had warned the government of the plans of right-wing extremists to attack federal buildings in 1995. Cash went on to delve deeper and deeper into Tim McVeigh and others who had lived or visited Elohim City, the religious compound in eastern Oklahoma. Using the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to make a case that the FBI had McVeigh and other members of a gang of Midwest Bank robbers under investigation prior to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah building.

streiff, a contributing writer at RedState, has written a detailed and stirring account of the days leading up to and following Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

April 7, 1865. Prelude to Appomattox

April 8, 1865. On the eve of surrender

April 9, 1865. The Surrender at Appomattox

In the final installment, he cites the surrender as one of three "critical points in American history: points after Independence was a done deal but where the very fate of the Republic teetered on razor's edge." Washington's handling of the Newburgh Conspiracy at the end of the Revolutionary War and his willingness to step aside after two terms as president were the other two he mentioned.

One of Lee's aides proposed that soldiers steal away in small groups, return to their states and report for further duty, effectively calling for a protracted guerrilla war. Lee immediately shut down the idea. Streiff quotes John Daniel Davidson, writing at The Federalist:

Lee gently rebuked Alexander, reminding him, "We must consider its effect on the country as a whole." The men, he said, "would be without rations and under no control of officers. They would be compelled to rob and steal in order to live. They would become mere bands of marauders, and the enemy's cavalry would pursue them and overrun many sections that may never have occasion to visit. We would bring on a state of affairs it would take the country years to recover from." Alexander would later write: "I had not a single word to say in reply. He had answered my suggestion from a plane so far above it that I was ashamed of having made it."

Grant handled the surrender with leniency and respect for the troops who had valiantly fought on the other side. He allowed the officers to retain their sidearms and all the troops to keep their horses and mules; Lee had told him that the animals were owned by their riders and would be needed for planting crops to feed their families. Grant stifled loud celebrations by his troops: "The war is over; the rebels are our countrymen again, and the best sight of rejoicing after the victory will be to abstain from all demonstrations." Three days later, General Joshua Chamberlain formally received the arms and flags of the Confederates, and he had his troops offer a salute of honor. "These enemies in many a bloody battle ended the war not with the shame on one side and exultation on the other but with a soldier's 'mutual salutation and farewell.'"

Had the defeated and victorious generals not acted magnanimously, the country might have suffered "a prolonged and bloody insurgency in the South that would have caused a permanent rift in the nation."

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Latest links of interest:

The Capital Of Western Swing - Oklahoma Magazine

John Wooley tells the story of how Tulsa became the capital of western swing, as told to him by O. W. Mayo, business manager for Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys and Johnnie Lee Wills and His Boys. Mayo got involved with Bob Wills and his band in Waco and was with them for their search for a new home base, out of reach of the influence of Pappy O'Daniel. The magic combination was the band, a big ballroom (Cain's), and a broadcasting blowtorch (KVOO).

Baptist Theological Seminary campus at Rüschlikon, Switzerland, now conference center

The Swiss Re Center for Global Dialogue is on the grounds of Villa Bodmer in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, near the shores of Lake Zurich. The 40-room mansion was built by industrialist Karl Martin Leonhard Bodmer in the late 1920s. It was formerly home to the Baptist Theological Seminary, which purchased the estate for $240,000 in 1948 and began classes on the site in 1949. Mrs. Bates sang there in the early '80s as part of the University Baptist Church (Fayetteville, Ark.), collegiate choir, New Creations, and she and I walked around the campus and ate a picnic (tinned meat and fresh bread) in the car park during a trip to central Europe in September 1990. After defunding by the Southern Baptist Convention and the liberation of the former Warsaw Pact countries, both happening in 1991, the seminary changed its name to the International Baptist Theological Seminary and moved to Prague in 1997. The seminary's chapel remains on the site and is home to the International Baptist Church of Zurich.

The Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives has a collection of papers on the Baptist Theological Seminary, Rüschlikon, Switzerland.

American Architecture's Classical Revival by Allan Greenberg and Colette Arredondo, City Journal Spring 2015

While the contagion of "global architecture" today dilutes the individual character of our cities, turning them into bland collections of interchangeable buildings, we now have voices offering a fresh choice: classical architecture based on local traditions and ideals. In Alabama, judges want to hear cases in buildings that embody the virtues of justice; in California and Illinois, colleges want buildings that reflect their founding principles; and in New York City, luxurious new classical apartment buildings offer residents "modern-traditional" living. Classical architecture is not just about history; it's also about light, color, and human proportions, all of which help us understand it and relate to it so naturally. "People will not look forward to prosperity," Edmund Burke once said, "who never look backwards to their ancestors." In politics, as in architecture, tastes evolve. But lasting institutions can be built only on strong foundations.

Can Islam Be Reformed?: History and human nature say yes :: Daniel Pipes

"Key to Islam's role in public life is Sharia and the many untenable demands it makes on Muslims. Running a government with the minimal taxes permitted by Sharia has proved to be unsustainable; and how can one run a financial system without charging interest? A penal system that requires four men to view an adulterous act in flagrante delicto is impractical. Sharia's prohibition on warfare against fellow Muslims is impossible for all to live up to; indeed, roughly three-quarters of all warfare waged by Muslims has been directed against other Muslims. Likewise, the insistence on perpetual jihad against non-Muslims demands too much.

"To get around these and other unrealistic demands, premodern Muslims developed certain legal fig leaves that allowed for the relaxation of Islamic provisions without directly violating them. Jurists came up with hiyal (tricks) and other means by which the letter of the law could be fulfilled while negating its spirit. For example, various mechanisms were developed to live in harmony with non-Muslim states. There is also the double sale (bai al-inah) of an item, which permits the purchaser to pay a disguised form of interest. Wars against fellow Muslims were renamed jihad.

"This compromise between Sharia and reality amounted to what I dubbed Islam's "medieval synthesis" in my book In the Path of God (1983). This synthesis translated Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands....

"For anti-Islamist Muslims, the great burden is to develop not just an alternative vision to the Islamist one but an alternative movement to Islamism. The Islamists reached their position of power and influence through dedication and hard work, through generosity and selflessness. Anti-Islamists must also labor, probably for decades, to develop an ideology as coherent and compelling as that of the Islamists, and then spread it. Scholars interpreting sacred scriptures and leaders mobilizing followers have central roles in this process.

"Non-Muslims can help a modern Islam move forward in two ways: first, by resisting all forms of Islamism--not just the brutal extremism of an Osama bin Laden, but also the stealthy, lawful, political movements such as Turkey's AKP. Erdoğan is less ferocious than Bin Laden, but he is more effective and no less dangerous. Whoever values free speech, equality before the law, and other human rights denied or diminished by Sharia must consistently oppose any hint of Islamism.

"Second, non-Muslims should support moderate and Westernizing anti-Islamists. Such figures are weak and fractured today and face a daunting task, but they do exist, and they represent the only hope for defeating the menace of global jihad and Islamic supremacism, then replacing it with an Islam that does not threaten civilization."

Islam's 'Reformation' Is Already Here - and It's Called 'ISIS' - Raymond Ibrahim - American Thinker

"Islam's current reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation - specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate - but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam...."

Ibrahim quotes Daniel Pipes on the milder, medieval version of Islam crafted by scholars, but disconnected from the foundational texts and history: "translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands[.] ... [However, w]hile the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists."

"How Christianity and Islam can follow similar patterns of reform but with antithetical results rests in the fact that their scriptures are often antithetical to one another. This is the key point, and one admittedly unintelligible to postmodern, secular sensibilities, which tend to lump all religious scriptures together in a melting pot of relativism without bothering to evaluate the significance of their respective words and teachings."

Ibrahim compares the statements of the New Testament and the Koran on tolerance, apostasy, marriage, and lying. He writes:

"It is precisely because Christian scriptural literalism lends itself to religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women that Western civilization developed the way it did - despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

"And it is precisely because Islamic scriptural literalism is at odds with religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women that Islamic civilization is the way it is - despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.

Those in the West waiting for an Islamic "reformation" along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation, on the assumption that it will lead to similar results, must embrace two facts: 1) Islam's reformation is well on its way, and yes, along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation - with a focus on scripture and a disregard for tradition - and for similar historic reasons (literacy, scriptural dissemination, etc.); 2) but because the core teachings of the founders and scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam's reformation is producing something markedly different.

"Put differently, those in the West calling for an "Islamic reformation" need to acknowledge what it is they are really calling for: the secularization of Islam in the name of modernity, and the trivialization and sidelining of Islamic law from Muslim society....

"That would not be a "reformation" - certainly nothing analogous to the Protestant Reformation.

"Upholding the literal teachings of Christianity is possible within a secular - or any - state. Christ called on believers to "render unto Caesar the things of Caesar [temporal] and unto God the things of God [spiritual]" (Matt. 22:21). For the "kingdom of God" is "not of this world" (John 18:36)....

"On the other hand, mainstream Islam is devoted to upholding the law, and Islamic scripture calls for a fusion between Islamic law - sharia - and the state."

Video stuck during upload - YouTube Help

"Don't waste your uploads progress! If you had to abandon your upload for any reason, you have up to 24 hours to continue uploading where you left off. Just go back to youtube.com/upload and select the same file from your computer."

Tillman County Chronicles: "The Wave" at Pioneer Townsite

A historic Fun-Ful Ocean Wave merry-go-round, a spinning and rocking staple of school playgrounds in the first half of the 20th century, has been reconstructed on the grounds of the Pioneer Townsite museum in Frederick, OK, but it's been frozen in position -- too dangerous in the modern view.

Why We Chop Down Cedar Trees | Confessions of a Pioneer Woman | Ree Drummond

A guest post by Ree's husband, Ladd Drummond, about the menace to ranching and the natural environment posed by the eastern red cedar, an invasive species that sucks water out of the ground, reducing the native grasses available for grazing.

King of the Blues, R.I.P. : The Other McCain

A tribute to the hard work and dues paid by B. B. King:

"Anyone enthralled by the popular misconception that a working musician's life is glamorous should contemplate what it was like for King and his band in the 1950s when, in addition to the ordinary hassles of life on the road, they also had to cope with the difficulties that Jim Crow-era segregation imposed. King's hard-earned status as the most commercially successful blues performer in history, however, required him to endure the ups and downs of a career affected by shifts in popular music tastes. In the early 1960s, he was actually booed in Baltimore by a young audience that was there to see the soul crooner Sam Cooke. King kept working -- playing more than 40 weeks on the road year after year -- until a new generation rediscovered the blues. British rockers like the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, who had traced rock-and-roll back to its R&B roots, inspired a blues revival in the late 1960s....

"King was 43 years old and had already played more than 4,000 gigs before his "commercial breakthrough" in 1968."

My wife and I had the thrill of seeing him in concert at the PAC, with seventh-row seats, playing songs and telling stories.

Newberry Library: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Project

Interactive maps, downloadable shapefiles, and chronological narratives of state and county boundaries over time. Useful for historical and genealogical research.

Massachusetts' chronology is particularly interesting, as it covers the former separate colony of Plymouth and the Maine and New Hampshire regions that were split off as separate entities. I'd always wondered why Norfolk County is south of Suffolk. Unfortunately, the Oklahoma data set treats Indian Territory as a unitary entity, rather than attending to the changes in tribal boundaries over the course of the 19th century.

(Via a Center for Investigative Reports article about how they used satellite imagery and boundary information to trace out the U. S. / Mexico border fence. They used OpenStreetMap and JOSM to create a shapefile of the fence.)


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